Did you know that texters take their eyes off the road for almost five seconds and increase their risk of collision up to 23 times? Text’nDrive Pro is an iPhone app by HandsFree Software that reads your emails and lets you reply to them all using voice. Your new emails are read to you and you dictate your replies to the app, all 100% hands free. Although the name is misleading some to think the app handles SMS messages, it does not. Text’nDrive is for emails only. Although the developer states they will add support for texts in October. If you are a Bluetooth user, Text’nDrive Pro also supports that.
The app costs $20 but the price has been cut in half for now down to $10. A free version of Text’nDrive Pro exists but limits the text-to-speech function to 45 words per email and you can’t reply to the messages. In the pro version you can listen to 500 words per email.
Replying to emails is easy but it is not done as you might assume. You just tap anywhere or say “Reply to the Message” after the tone. Then you speak your reply. Text’nDrive Pro records an audio file (not speech to text), and sends a reply to the sender with a link to an .mp3 file on the txtndrive.com server containing your audio reply. The email looks something like this:
I just heard your email with the Text’nDrive iPhone app. I replied by voice, to listen to my message please click on this MP3 link
Setting up Text’nDrive Pro was a breeze. I set up a gmail account and all it required was a username and password. It would have been nice if the app was able to read emails straight from the Mail app itself but that is not possible. If you are worried about giving out your username and password some privacy notices are given to you stating:
Text’nDrive is an application that reads emails aloud so drivers can keep their eyes on the road. In order to comply with Apple’s requirements, we cannot automatically fetch your emails without prompting you for your credentials. This information will remain on your iPhone and will not be transmitted to anyone except to your email provider, through a secure connection.
Also regarding the actual reading of your emails, it’s worth noting that Text’nDrive will upload your email to its own servers and convert it to an audio file there. They state that they delete the files once in a while. This kind of privacy concern sort of reminded me of the Dragon Dictation app from a while back.
Text’nDrive will use this information to connect to your email server and transmit the text content of the new emails to Text’nDrive’s server where they will be converted into audio files. Text content is never collected on our server and the audio files are deleted periodically after use.
The voice that translates text to speech is ok but mispronounced a few words with punctuation. Text’nDrive checks for new messages every 2 minutes by default. An onscreen countdown starts at 120 seconds and shows the status of the next check. Tap anywhere to check for new messages manually. There is a button to share/promote the app with your friends so they can be safer while driving.
You can adjust the Audio Level.
You can enable/disable Bluetooth usage.
You can enable/disable Message Answering.
In the email settings you can set custom paramters like hostname, port, Use SSL, and more for both incoming and outgoing mail servers.
You can set a “Max Words” to be read aloud option to anything from 15-500. The default is 45 words.
Shut Down: You can adjust the time Text’nDrive Pro will take before going to sleep, including Never. default is 6 hours.
Check Interval: Adjust how often you want Text’nDrive Pro to check for emails. The default is 2 minutes. Here you can also disable auto check if you prefer to tap the iPhone to check for new emails manually.
A setting exists for auto detecting language. It is off by default. I tested sending an email in Spanish and the dictation was done by a female voice in Spanish, which is very impressive. You can type in a auto response message and enable the setting to send out the message to anyone who sends you an email while Text’nDrive Pro is on.
Ambient Noise Level setting lets you adjust how much background noise Text’nDrive Pro should pick up depending on your situation. There is an FAQ section in Text’nDrive Pro that contains some helpful tips, although the text is not formatted correctly on this page. You can also send a support request using a web based form from within the app. Here you also have a Pro Version Demo Video which strangely enough is present in both the Free and Pro versions.
Issues and complaints:
Only 1 email is read per check. When the app checks for new messages it only reads 1 email even if you have just received say 10 new emails. The other nine emails are read on consecutive checks, one by one. So in this case it would take you 10 tries to have all ten messages read to you. It would be nice if the audio stated how many emails have been received.
No date/time information is announced.
You can’t compose new emails, only reply to them.
The app does not read existing emails that you have not read yet once you launch it. It only reads new messages that arrive after your open the app.
Unfortunately Text’nDrive Pro does not run in the background using the new iOS feature. It also does not send you push notifications. So basically if you’re using this app you can not use any other apps, which might annoy you if you’re into using the Maps app or a GPS app while driving.
When there is a problem with your email server or mail settings the app turns itself off. Although there is a bug when your email server is not configured correctly, as you tap on the Text’nDrive tab you hear “Text and Drive On” and “Text and Drive Off” simultaneously. The audio volume also sometimes gets stuck on a very low level and you have to fiddle around with quitting the app a few times to get it to work correctly again.
Finally, Text’nDrive Pro marks your messages as read on the server after you hear them. This is nice but I think it should be an option for the user. I would prefer to have my email program show them as unread when I get back to my desk so that I could remember to reply to them if need be.
Overall Text’nDrive Pro is a groundbreaking app that is well thought out and simple to use. I hope to use it more on a daily basis. The first release on the iPhone has some bugs and missing some key features but it is nevertheless easy to use which is what you want while driving. Textn’Drive is one of those apps that makes you ask ‘Why didn’t Apple include this functionality into the iPhone by default’? The price is a little hefty for average users. The free version might be worth a try before you go Pro as it will give you a very good idea of how it functions.
Here is a video demo of the Text’nDrive Pro app on the iPhone
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